I wrote this post more than a week ago, but hesitated putting it up. I know some of my readers and online friends swear by Twitter. Many are blogging less frequently because they're tweeting instead.
Mike Shields, who covers digital media at Mediaweek, reported several days ago about a study by Nielsen Online that shows a 40% retention rate for new Twitter users. Actually, Shields wrote... "just a 40% return rate." The story compared Twitter to "similarly over-hyped Second Life from a few years ago.
Other media, especially mainstream media, jumped all over the study and we started seeing stories in the papers and on TV and radio about the weakness of Twitter, like a fad that's run its course.
Not surprisingly, the media seem to have overplayed this story. And the comparison to Second Life is not entirely fair. Second Life spurred a lot of talk and anticipation, and many of us took a look and even signed up and chose avatars for ourselves, so we'd be represented in the virtual world. And then, it sort of dropped out of sight.
Twitter is different. First of all, it's not as complex as Second Life. You put up mini-posts and respond to others -- it's quick and easy and it can be done in a few seconds from your cell phone as you're walking to work or entering the movie theater or waiting in line at the supermarket.
I think some of that quickness and ease of Twittering is what, to me, is also driving some people away from it. A lot of the drop-off seems to be from people who, responding to the hype from celebs like Oprah and Ashton Kutcher, signed up out of curiousity or because they figured it's a way to get closer to the famous people who say they Twitter. Maybe their expectations were unrealistically high, but when they saw they weren't really having meaningful dialogues or getting intimate with Oprah, Ashton or Britney, they let their Twitter activity slide.
I can only judge Twitter from my own, admittedly limited, experience so far. Some friends I respect swear by Twitter. They tell me it enables them to discuss issues, comment on breaking news and get instant feedback. Some say it helps them keep up on the latest news.
I'm afraid I haven't seen those benefits yet. I'm not saying I never will, but so far I just don't see it as a worthwhile use of my increasingly dwindling free time. I admit -- it could be me. Maybe I'm going to the wrong feeds or not following the right people or groups.
I have, however, seen the benefits of having some of my blog posts mentioned on Twitter. Some Tweets, from people I don't know, linked to a couple of my posts and I saw traffic jump significantly for several days. And I've followed links when I've seen Tweets suggesting I take a look at something. So I do realize that it can be great for building traffic for a blog or other site.
But most of what I've seen out there on Twitter there so far has been rather inane. I don't really need to know that you're on the way to the bakery or that you've just ordered Chinese take-out or that you're in the drug store or the bathroom now. (These are all real Tweets I've seen from supposedly business Twitterers.) It's too much information, in an already overloaded information age.
I even took a look at some Twitterers recommended by Adweek's TweetFreaks site. More inane stuff, and surprisingly, it was coming from some people whose blogs I do read and find interesting and insightful. But many of their random thoughts just add to the clutter of information and chatter we find ourselves struggling to keep up with.
I won't be one of those Twitter dropouts. I'll keep trying to find my place out there. An online friend whose blog is up there among the top marketing blogs told me (via an email) that it took him about six months to figure how to best utilize Twitter, and he agreed that there's lots of chatter that's pointless or inane. Another online friend told me several months ago when he began Twittering that he sees his blog as professional communication and his Twittering as social -- like hanging out and shooting the breeze with friends.
So I'll keep at it, but I doubt if I'll be responding to or adding to inane stuff about what you (or I) are doing at this precise instant. I won't be Tweeting to say I'm about to watch "CBS Sunday Morning" now, or that I'll soon be taking my dog to the woods for a walk. Do you really need to know that?
But I will be watching and contributing when I think I have something meaningful to add. For now, I'll continue to focus on my blog and what others are saying on their blogs, where the comments aren't so fast and random and where, hopefully, the thoughts behind the writing is more thoughtful.
(If I offended any Twitters, I apologize. I'm only calling it like I see it.)